Friday, February 02, 2007

my hips certainly don't lie

it's no secret that i'm all about being indian. so of course i tried my hand at bharata natyam. however, unlike most people who start at an early age, i was a 16-year-old learning poses in a class full of gradeschoolers. soon enough, though, the teacher moved me up with people closer to my age, and by my senior year of high school she had me performing in a group with a few people who had even completed their bharata natyam "graduation," which requires many many years of extensive training. this was cool with me-- i sweat through my clothes, toned up my body (there's a lot of sustained crouching which hurts like hell but makes for great muscles), had fun with ri's sister in class and got to perform in some pretty cool places.

the teacher was young, beautiful and an accomplished dancer. she was strict with us, keeping time with a special wooden rod on a block of wood and mock threatening to smack us in the legs if we weren't "sitting" into the positions as we were supposed to. she said she had big plans for me, despite the fact that i'd be going away to school after only two years of training with her. she was confident i'd come home every weekend to continue. and while that was highly unlikely, there was a chance i might have gone back and trained with her after college, because i had found a day job nearby. that is, if i wasn't still pouting.

it was my senior year of high school. i had an afterschool job, was trying to pay attention in class, applying to college, maintaining a *secret* boyfriend (whom my parents pretty much knew about all along, what a waste of effort that was) and still looking for more time to goof off with my friends for the last months we'd all still be together before graduation. so i told the teacher auntie that i wasn't going to be able to come all the time because i was barely getting any sleep as it was with my schedule. she said it was fine, but to come over so she could introduce me to her guru, who was visiting from India.

obviously i wanted to meet this woman; my teacher revered her so much that she turned into a simpering lady-in-waiting in her presence. but what i thought was a visit over tea turned into a backbreaking lesson from the guru-- and NOBODY says no to the guru-- because she wanted to see what i was made of. the next thing i knew, i was roped into doing several pieces in a show with her; it perfectly ate up what little unscheduled time i had left. but i did it. i sat in those rehearsal rooms barefoot with no heat waiting for my turn and doing my homework in the corner, i stayed up all night finishing projects because of work and practice and i ended up catching a mammoth headcold. i felt like i had sacrificed a lot of a special time in my life out of respect for my teacher, but it was cool to be around all those accomplished people.

it was fine, i chugged some medicine and performed, happy for it finally to be over. there were so many people involved from so many places -- the guru had her chosen musicians and there were people from all over the area that came to be a part of it, kids, adults, everyone. and we had all put in hella time and effort, too.

teacher auntie took the mic at the end of the night and made a sweet speech, talking about how people gave up a lot of their precious time and reshuffled commitments to attend practice and kids stayed up late and moms ignored their families and everyone worked tremendously hard. standing up there, huffing and puffing in a line with all the performers, i was aw-shucksing and sheepishly smiling, sorta thinking she was talking specifically about me. and then teacher auntie individually called all of our names, from the littlest four-year-old to the guru, to step forward and take a bow individually.

except she forgot to call mine.

it was just an oversight, i know. but something in that moment just broke in me. i had been running on fumes for several weeks, not sleeping, skimping on things that meant a lot to me and a lot of it was to accommodate this damn show and this woman, whom i probably wouldn't see after i went away to college. i was sick, drugged up and more tired than i could explain. and she made sure to thank the kids who played foliage but forgot about me?

i went to the dressing room and started ripping off all the jewelry and extra costume pieces and stuffing them into my bag. teacher auntie saw i was annoyed and apologized to me. i said it wasn't a big deal, but it WAS a big deal. i felt like such a fool. i had bent over backwards to appease this woman and i wasn't expecting anything from it, but i thought i deserved as much as everyone else. i felt like a fool for being guilted into it in the first place and i started to cry, just like i had when i was six and lost my doll. appropriately, a six-year-old looked at me with disgust and said to her friend, "look! such a big girl and she's CRYING!" and laughed.

that was it. i was done with this auntie and her cackling proteges. on top of that, she never managed to return all those costume pieces that i stayed up all night sewing, either.

that was more than ten years ago. i haven't thought about that woman or what happened for a very long time. until this morning, when i was flipping through a magazine and read that teacher auntie's dance company in chicago impressed Shakira so much she wanted to work with them. teacher auntie and four dancers were flown out to new york, two of them were featured ON STAGE, ON MTV during the introduction to the "hips don't lie" performance at the video music awards in August.

i couldn't help but wonder if, in some kind of an alternate universe, i could have been bumping hips with Shakira on television.

14 comments:

jazz said...

i'm angry with that lady!

highcontrast said...

there are more words in this here post than in the entire contents of my archive.

why do all indian girls have such love hate relationships with their teacher aunties? It's like you are desi geishas...

cadiz12 said...

snippety is a choice, highcon.

Radioactive Jam said...

Would you trade places? Might be a tough decision. That alternative you would've missed out on cool stuff like all your amazing dungeon experiences, including a farewell standing ovation. Audiences i.e. strangers applauding performers - not the same. Would the alternative you trade places with you? I'm thinking yes.

Ah, the uniqueness and treasure "hidden" in each person's life. But you already know this.
;-)

Jon said...

I know what it’s like to be left out of the congratulation speech. It stings quite deep. I’m sorry.

Demosthenes said...

Maybe in an alternate universe, you are Shakira.

Really though... gurus, secret boyfriends, corporal punishment and a shattered dream of entertaining... sounds like a movie.

Modern Viking said...

Quite a story! But you know, there are better ways to spend your 15 minutes of fame than by dancing in someone else's shadow... ;)

beenzzz said...

I would have been very angry too. I think the road you're taking now is more meant for you than being a Shakira back up dancer. I'm NOT a Shakira fan and her dancing is gross.

The Stormin Mormon said...

I like the "secret boyfriend" part of that most of all.

Looking back on my childhood I think of so many things that I thought were "secret" when in fact they were as plain as day. It genuinely strikes me as funny that we manage to convince ourselves that we are capable of hiding things from our parents at that age. And then, that they allow us to hold onto that delusion because it provides a really neat lesson later in life.

ML said...

Your post really moved me! I know what it feels like to work hard and not be acknowledged for anything - just ignored liked I did not exist.

I don't blame you for being angry and hurt! Really, that just cuts to the core of a person.

I admire you for taking up such a beautiful artistic dance. I'm sure with all your hard work and aptitude that you are wonderful to watch!

Becky said...

eff that lady, and eff shakira, and eff getting overlooked.

as a side note, as a white whitey, all my people have is square dancing, so i am blown away that there even IS a dance that looks as hard as that, much less that you can do it and claim it as part of your culture. i'm a tad jealous, so i hate you just a little bit. but in a good way.

Ale said...

Cadiz, this is a big lesson: do not EVER do anything that you dont really want to do. you really were not that into dancing with her. so of course not having your name called just underlined that point. you got to make sacrifices for things that you are 100% into and want to do just for the process, and if you do get rewarded in the end that's just extra.

and dont forget just because you didnt get a chance to dance with shakira, doesnt mean it wasnt fun dancing and singing with her in our Jaguar overlooking turquoise waters!!!!!! gotta pick which rewards you want in life :)

cadiz12 said...

thanks, guys. and you're probably right. if things were reversed, maybe i'd be wishing for something else-- however, somehow i doubt it'd be sitting in the dungeon. and now you've got me thinking how i DO want to be spending my fifteen minutes of fame...

but i sure do miss that Jaguar. sigh.

Guyana-Gyal said...

Cadiz, I'll say it again! You sure can WRITE!

And I agree with Ale.

I think if you really truly wanted to dance, you'd be doing it now.

Ever thought of selling your writing to magasines? You'll do really well. You might even get an assignment to cover Shakira :-)